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September 6, 2012

'Sir T' makes name for himself on the field

In a 2001 movie released by Showtime based on the real-life events of a former college running back, recently deceased actor Michael Clarke Duncan plays the role of coach Griffin.

While scouring the field for talent to put on his high school football team, Duncan's character catches a glimpse of the "scrub run" on the field adjacent to the rest of the possible candidates. He notices a young man with quick feet and the ability to elude would-be tacklers, and eventually offers him a spot on the team.

The young man's first name isn't the most common of choices, but Sirr Parker later went on to lead Texas A&M to the 1998 Big 12 Conference championship over Kansas State, which had hopes for a national championship that season.

The name of the movie that tells his life story is simple: "They Call Me Sirr."

Arizona has its own unknown commodity who goes by the same name, although redshirt freshman linebacker Sir Thomas Jackson has just one "R" in his first name. Like the other Sirr in the movie, which Jackson said he has never heard of, the first name catches plenty of people off guard and he fields plenty of questions about its origin on a daily basis.

"At least three times a day," said Jackson, who added that while growing up in Seattle, high school and middle school teachers didn't quite believe him immediately.

"Like, 'Sir Thomas? Uh, OK, then. I hope you're living up to your name.' And every time when somebody says 'sir,' I look around like they called my name."

Jackson's father's name is Thomas and it was an aunt who "wanted to put the Sir in front of it." Otherwise, the world would know the 6-foot, 215-pounder as Arthur.

But most people, teammates included, call him "Sir T" to keep it short - a nickname started by a Little League coach when he was 7 years old.

"It was a little weird, at first," junior linebacker Marquis Flowers said when Jackson arrived last year and the team was trying to figure out exactly how to address him. "But we kind of got used to it now. Just 'Sir T.'"

Added Jackson: "My grandma and my mom are the only ones who call me Sir Thomas."

Before last Saturday's season opener against Toledo, not many people knew who Jackson was outside of the eye-catching name that appears on the roster. And he was a well-kept secret of head coach Rich Rodriguez's throughout spring and fall camp.

Although Jackson, a member of the scout team last season, said he routinely practiced with the first unit dating back to the spring, not many saw his No. 53 jersey during the first 20 to 30 minutes of practice that the media is allowed to observe.

"I've always been getting chances with the first unit," said Jackson, who added that there were moments during fall camp where he was unsure whether he would get a shot.

"Coach told me to get confidence. When we were in summer workouts, I've just been thinking of myself as a (starter), thinking of myself as a scholarship player. So, that's how I think of it."

But it wasn't until about the second week of fall camp in August when he started to receive more serious looks. That's because the Wildcats found themselves short on linebackers to the point that Flowers and true freshman Keoni Bush-Loo changed positions - and sides of the ball, in Bush-Loo's case - to fill a need.

Meanwhile, Jackson quietly made a name for himself while playing all three linebacker positions.

When sophomore linebacker Hank Hobson was unable to start after being listed as questionable with a shoulder injury, it was Jackson who received the surprise start in his first collegiate game, alongside Flowers and middle linebacker Jake Fischer. Jackson, who actually learned he would start six days before the game, never bothered to tell his parents, either, and only a few people were informed of the news the day prior to his debut.

"I told everybody (else) back home the day before the game," Jackson said. "So everybody was shocked, even my parents - except for my dad. My dad's that hard edge dude."

Now, after Jackson recorded seven tackles in the contest and stayed on the field for just about all of the 94 defensive snaps, Rodriguez has made Jackson visible with the first unit at the start of practices, as he was Tuesday.

"He played great, he played great," Flowers said. "Stepped up into his role, and that's what we need. If we need him again, I'm confident he'll be ready again."

So what does Rodriguez like about the walk-on?

"He is a good kid that works hard," Rodriguez said. "He is a tough guy who is very coachable and as far as walk-ons go - he epitomizes what you hope to see - a guy that comes out and tries to prove himself every day. I am very proud of him."

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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